3 Toxic Habits That Will Cripple Your Productivity

Thai Nguyen is a professional chef, international athlete, writer, and speaker. He is passionate about sparking personal revolutions in others.

More often than not, productivity is synonymous with success. The more quality content you are able to produce, the higher your conversion rate will be. Even talent is no match for productivity. The ever-entertaining Will Smith, with his numerous successes covering television, music, and cinema, was quick to respond when asked what his key to success was:

“I’ve never really viewed myself as talented, where I excel is ridiculous, sickening work ethic. When the other guy is sleeping, I’m working. When the other guy is eating, I’m working.”

It is a sentiment echoed by many great figures: If you just keep showing up and doing the work, results will come. When considering what stands against being productive, the usual suspects are procrastination, distraction, lack of self-discipline, and lack of willpower. However, there are three toxic habits that eat these culprits for breakfast:

1. Perfectionism

Striving to be perfect is not a bad thing. As long as you see perfection as the ideal and not the real. The reality is that everything can be improved. That is why you see new iPhones and iPads continually being churned out. That is why records are continually broken in every sport. Perfection is a unicorn that keeps running away.


Contentment is the enemy of improvement. -Thai Nguyen


Perfection cripples productivity when you spend far too much time working on the product rather than getting it out there. The inevitable question of, “What is the ideal amount of time?” is indeed a tricky one. The resolution is to be clear about your desired outcome as you are working on the project. What is it that you want your customers to experience once they are exposed to your product? If you are able to meet that level of expectation, then you have done your job. If you are able to exceed it, even better. But do not try to go beyond that and revolutionize the world. Not yet, anyway. That will happen when you least expect it.

2. Contentment

Being happy with your current state of being, your achievements and quality of relationships, is certainly a desirable goal—as long as it has a “best by” date on it. Contentment is the enemy of improvement. It is what keeps good from becoming great. You should always be seeking to set the bar higher and improving in all aspects of life. Snow is beautiful until you have to live with it daily.


Talent is no match for productivity. -Thai Nguyen


You are probably screaming, “What on earth is wrong with being happy with a situation?” That adage, “If it ain’t broke, why fix it?” may be ringing in your head right now. The reason contentment should only be a spring break is because change is inevitable. Everything is temporal. Change is the very fabric of the universe, and as much as you may strive to stay stationary, the tide will move you. We grow older, and we mature; technology continues to make groundbreaking changes; culture and society will ebb and flow. Thus, change and improvement, not contentment, goes hand in hand with personal development and productivity.

Interview with Bestselling Author David Baldacci

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A Master Storyteller

With over 110 million books in print, David Baldacci is one of the world’s favorite storytellers.  He is a writing productivity machine, churning out bestsellers almost as fast as his fans can read them.  He and his wife founded Wish You Well Foundation, an organization dedicated to literacy efforts.

No matter your profession, I believe listening to David’s story will inspire you and give you ideas to help your own career.

In this video interview, David and I discuss:

  • How he maintains such productivity.  He has never missed a deadline, and Fast Company labeled him one of the “most productive people.”
  • David’s advice for aspiring authors.TheFinisher
  • The real story behind his overnight success.  His first published novel was Absolute Power, which immediately became a bestseller and a major motion picture starring Gene Hackman and Clint Eastwood.
  • His newest book, released today: The Finisher.  Learn why David submitted the manuscript under a pseudonym, hiding his bestselling author credentials.
  • His passion for literacy and libraries.

Take a few minutes and learn from a master storyteller. His advice has the potential to improve your own story.


10 Email Productivity Myths

Like you, I receive my share of email.  I have multiple email accounts.  It is especially difficult to manage as I travel the globe, working across time zones.

Over the years, I have heard my share of advice about email.  I call them “email productivity myths” because they are widely shared in leadership and productivity classes.  The problem is that some are not true.  Others work for some but not all.

Here are a few:

1. Email is one of the biggest time wasters.


Why:  This is one I hear all the time.  It seems a given that everyone sees it as a nuisance, as a time waster, as taking too much time.

Why it’s a myth:  More often, email is saving time. It allows quick communication with people all over the world. What takes a few minutes to write and to read would have required scheduling a conference call, preparing, and having an unneeded long conversation.  How to use email properly is an important skill, but don’t fall into the false belief that all email is a waste of your day.


2. Never reply all because you are filling up everyone’s email box unnecessarily.


Why: Carelessly hitting reply all adds an email to everyone’s inbox.

Why to do it: There are times when replying all is important. You are sending a message where everyone needs to stay in the conversation.  The important reminder is to think about where it is going.


3. Don’t respond.


Why: Say you receive an email sent to a few people, and you have an opinion and decide not to respond.

Why you may need to respond:  Depending on the culture of your organization, silence may be read to equal agreement.  If you have a point of view, you may need to share it either via email or in-person.


4. Use the blind cc: feature to copy people.


Why:  You are using the blind carbon copy to let someone know you are handling a situation, but you don’t want the receiver to know.

Why you should rarely, if ever use it:  It feels slimy.  It’s like you are hearing a one-sided conversation, and don’t get to hear the response.  If you receive a blind cc, you have to keep track of what you are supposed to know, and what you aren’t. Worst of all, we have all seen someone who was blind carbon copied respond, embarrassing the sender.

Don’t Let a Pocket Veto Destroy Your Meeting

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Have you ever heard of a pocket veto?

It’s when Congress passes a bill, but the president does not sign it within ten days after Congress adjourns.  Effectively, it means that the bill is dead.  After all the committee meetings, the bill is passed in the House of Representatives and then the Senate, but the bill does not become law.

The president can sign bills into law or he can veto them.  He can also use the political maneuver of a pocket veto and do nothing.

My version of a pocket veto is different.  It happens in organizations.